Energy

Feds approve major green projects on federal lands, despite falling federal oil and gas production

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Obama administration has announced the approval of three major renewable energy projects on federal lands as a part of the White House’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, despite their decision earlier this year to delay oil and gas drilling permits.

The administration approved a 350-megawatt solar project and a 70-megawatt New York geothermal project in Nevada, and also approved another 100-megawatt solar project in Arizona.

“These projects reflect the Obama Administration’s commitment to expand responsible domestic energy production on our public lands and diversify our nation’s energy portfolio,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Today’s approvals will help bolster rural economies by generating good jobs and reliable power and advance our national energy security.”

Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms and 11 geothermal plants. According to the Department of the Interior, these projects could provide 12,500 megawatts of power, which is enough to power more than 4.4 million homes.

However, the administration has been criticized in the past for favoring renewable energy projects on federal lands while oil and gas productions plummets.

“America has vast untapped energy resources, but the Obama administration has repeatedly blocked and delayed the development of energy on federal lands,” said Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Oil production on private and state lands has shot up dramatically from 3,487,800 barrels of oil per day in 2009 to 4,580,800 barrels per day last year. Natural gas production boomed as well from 16,233 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2009 to 20,242 billion cubic feet in 2012.

But oil production on federal lands has fallen since 2009 from 1,731,500 barrels per day on federal lands, but in 2012 federal lands only produced 1,627,400 barrels per day. Natural gas production on federal lands fell as well from 5,376 billion cubic feet in 2009 to 3,724 billion cubic feet last year.

Earlier this year, the administration announced that oil and gas permitting would be delayed due to sequestration. A report by House Democrats found that the Bureau of Land Management will process up to 400 fewer oil and gas drilling leases and issue 150 fewer leases, costing the federal government $150 million in revenue.

The sequester also prevented two coal sales from going through this year, according to Democrats, which will cost the government up to $60 million in revenue.

“The federal government takes in $40 for every $1 spent on drilling on federal lands,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research. “Why would the administration allow the sequester to slow down permitting, unless the president is looking for ways to reduce energy production and increase prices for American consumers?”

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